Figuring out what I wanna be when I grow up.
Oop..I AM grown up...

Sunday, October 31, 2010

On This, The Eve Of All Hallows

"All Hallows' Eve," or Hallowe'en as we know it now, was once the night before All Saints' Day (November 1) and All Souls' Day (November 2).  According to lore, Hallowe'en was the evening we must all be mindful of the dead, and those souls who have either not left us, or return for an evening. 

From: "All Saints' Day And All Souls' Day"

"It was in the eighth century that the Church appointed a special date for the feast of All Saints, followed by a day in honor of her soon-to-be saints, the feast of All Souls. She chose this time of year, it is supposed, because in her part of the world it was the time of barrenness on the earth. The harvest was in, the summer done, the world brown and drab and mindful of death. Snow had not yet descended to comfort and hide the bony trees or blackened fields; so with little effort man could look about and see a meditation on death and life hereafter.

Apparently how you spent the vigil of All Saints depended on where you lived in Christendom. In Brittany the night was solemn and without a trace of merriment. On their "night of the dead" and for forty-eight hours thereafter, the Bretons believed the poor souls were liberated from Purgatory and were free to visit their old homes. The vigil for the souls, as well as the saints, had to be kept on this night because of course the two days were consecutive feasts — and a vigil is never kept on a feast.

Breton families prayed by their beloveds' graves during the day, attended church for "black vespers" in the evening and in some parishes proceeded thence to the charnel house in the cemetery to pray by the bones of those not yet buried or for whom no room could be found in the cemetery. Here they sang hymns to call on all Christians to pray for the dead and, speaking for the dead, they asked prayers and more prayers.

Late in the evening in the country parishes, after supper was over, the housewives would spread a clean cloth on the table, set out pancakes, curds, and cider. And after the fire was banked and chairs set round the table for the returning loved ones, the family would recite the De Profundis (Psalm 129) again and go to bed. During the night a townsman would go about the streets ringing a bell to warn them that it was unwise to roam abroad at the time of returning souls. "

Saturday, October 30, 2010

YES!!!! I AM (slightly) AWESOME

Everyone, I have a headache.  BUT, NO MATTER!  I have finally figured out, after much googling, and more hours than I care to admit of pouring over HTML code, how to put a little "print friendly" button down at the bottom of my blogs.  No, I'm not expecting you all to print them up and wallpaper your house with them (or use them in place of toilet paper, ahem).  I was doing this specifically for my recipes. 

Earlier in the day, crazed and distracted as I was, my sister happened to call up for a chat.  Now, she used to know all about writing up HTML codes (you know--all the gobbledy gook lingo behind the curtain of a flashy blog, or other profile page).  She asked why I wanted to add this feature.  I told her it was for my recipes.  She said; "why are you bothered?  I just copy and paste your recipes onto a page in my computer, and print it from there."

No, no, no, that's NOT good enough.  Whenever I go online to look up a recipe, I get both annoyed and mildly disgusted if there's no print friendly option on the page.  I don't necessarily want to print up all the adverts and pictures that go along with the recipe, I just want the MEAT OF IT. 

Yes, yes, I'm sure by this point someone is thinking; geez she's anal


Listen, the bottom line is that I'm such a half-wit, every time I manage to achieve any small triumph in the technological world, I'm freaking thrilled. 

So, now just in case somebody cares, my recipes are PRINTABLE!  BOO YAH! 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Do All Jobs Suck??? Part TWO

  (Hey, if you missed part ONE, just click HERE)

Speaking of jobs that suck, I am currently sucking down a therapeutic, and rare week-day rye and cola (F.Y.I, it was Tuesday Evening when I started writing this, not Thursday morning as it is now) .  It's been a particularly long day, which included some fairly severe 6 year old anxiety, a few "I hate you Mum"s, a 3 year old looking at her dinner plate of portobello mushroom-stuffed ravioli and saying; "THIS is dinner?!?" and then; "I don't like YUCKY ravioli!" complete with an emphatic "pleh!" as she spat it back onto her plate, and somewhere in there was a nap that didn't make one lick of difference.  Lousy, idiot of a thyroid. 

Don't panic about the whisky people (no "e" in Canadian whisky, so don't think DRINKY here forgot how to spell), it was only 2, and I'm not going to be on the Oprah show anytime soon, sobbing about how alcohol helped me get through my mommy day. 

Anyhoo, I believe I left off, on my list of sucky jobs, at my hotel room cleaning stint.  The only good thing I can say about it is that I made good money, the girls (once I got to know them) were great, and I lost A LOT of weight every summer, and became SUPA SEXAY.  And so, let us continue...

Sucko Job #3- Sunglass Store Sales Associate
First of all, if he's reading this, my faithful blog sympathizer, Matt, will be saying, "Aw!" because he told me this job was available at that time.  Sorry Matt.  Don't take it personally, but it BIT. 

I was 24 and fresh out of University.  Oh how naive I was.  When I graduated, with my grossly FLUSHABLE BA in English Literature (no, don't try to comfort me and say it's a good degree.  I spent a lot of money for some fancy book learnin' but it's really only a step up from a Sociology or Philosophy degree.  OH COME ON, don't get all hurt and offended.  You KNOW you're not a "philosopher" right now.  You're probably in an office sorting mail, or making sure the spread-sheet numbers match up, so shut it), I was extremely idealistic, and actually believed that my degree would render me irresistable to the job world.  Silly moi.  I literally sat down with a list of different publishing houses, and writing-related businesses, and phoned them up looking for jobs.  Well, I think we all see where this is job.  And then I ended up at the sunglass store.  It's a well-known chain that shall go nameless forthwith...

Retail.  Shudder.  I was working at THE MALL.  Do you know what it's like to work at the Mall, my friends?  It's like being in FREAKING HIGHSCHOOL again.  The "cool" store cashiers, actually sneer at the somehow-determined less cool cashiers in the mall.  The girls who become managers of these stores don't put a dime in the bank, but rather spend it all on super cool clothes, and a very flashy car.  So that was a bit brutal.  Also, try convincing someone that the $200 pair of sunglasses in our store is so much better than that $20 pair of sunglasses they saw somewhere else.  I didn't really buy it myself, but it was my job to sell these things.  It was also my job to adjust any random dork's sunglasses, if the arms were loose, or too tight or whatever, even if they never bought them from the store.  Good for customer service.  And if there were no customers in the store, I was supposed to keep busy at all times, so this meant circling round and round the store, cleaning the fingerprints off the freaking sunglasses.  I also got paid minimum wage, but it was retail, so I was expected to WANT to be available at all times, AND love the company, AND sell, sell, sell as many of those stupid sunglasses as I could.  I even had to give up a Sunday to drive to Toronto with the other "associates" (euphemism, of course, for "cashier") for this horrid pep-talk/new products meeting. 

The highlights of this job were few, but the most memorable thing that happened was an encounter with a very special customer:

Man:  "I need the darkest pair of sunglasses you have"  (he is squinting against the store lighting, and has slightly watery looking eyes)
I showed him a few different brands, which he tried on, but was disatisfied with, so I showed him these gargantuan things that fit OVERTOP regular glasses, and were, incidentally, quite popular with old people for some reason.
Man:  "No, I don't think these will do it.  I have a rare form of parasite that's EATING MY EYE."  I don't remember a lot after that little exclamation.  He was still talking, and I was still nodding, but my brain was making this "EEE! EEE! EEE! EEE!" sound like when Janet Leigh got stabbed in that infamous shower scene from "Psycho." 

Sucko Job #4 - Slot Cashier, CasinoYee-haw, a new casino was opening up in town!  Time to get the rock out of the sunglass store.  I was excited to be going for an interview.  I got asked a lot of customer service type questions, and of course, I told the interviewer exactly what he wanted to hear.  If only I had at that time said; "I actually don't like people very much, and would greatly prefer a 'behind the scenes' type job."  Oh, if only. 

The construction of the casino wasn't completed yet, so I, along with many, many other new hirees, would be training at a local school.  I had to learn the value of the various poker chips, which I have since forgotten, except still remember that the purple chips are $500 each, so if you see someone in a casino with a lot of purple chips...well, they're spending some big money.  I had to learn how to stack them properly when patrons would cash them in.  I had to learn how to count and stack everything properly for my cash counter, because I would be under camera surveillance at all times.  I would be responsible for cashing in slot machine tokens, changing American money into Canadian (but not vicey versa, which p*ssed off, oh, approximately a zillion American customers), selling tokens, and cashing in a small amount of poker chips. 

The training was kind of fun--a lot of cameraderie was built during that time. Then the casino construction was complete, so we go to train at the new site, in our coin "redemptions"  (essentially, a CAGE where cashiers were trapped to deal with lousy people all day).  And then they went and spoiled it all by letting real people come in and gamble.  

Job Highlights:

* Redemption #1 was a total pit of hell, that was ALWAYS BUSY.  I once had a stand-off with a very beyotchy afternoon shift supervisor, at the end of my very, very long day, about not moving my zillion bags of tokens to the back counter with the rest of the cash I had counted post-shift.  I asserted that one of the Impressment guys could move them.  She wanted to play a little "I'm the boss and you're the pee-on" game.  But I won, and I didn't move those bags.  She had a mild hissy and threw them all against the back counter herself in a huff.

$$  this calls for a little explanation:  you know that exciting *CHING CHING CHING CHING CHING!* sound that comes from slot machine tokens falling like rain?  Well, all those tokens would come to US, so we could pour them through a machine called a  "jet sort."  The jet sort would sort the tokens into their appropriate denominations into $500 bags.  So, figure that's 2000 "quarter" tokens in a bag, and $1000 fifty cent tokens in another, etc, etc.  Those bags were not light.  Redemption #1 was right near the front entrance/exit, so when everybody was cashing out, guess where they went???  The "Impressment" team, were mostly men, with a few good, hardy gals, who had to hoist those bags of coin all day, bring it to their little machine over to the side, pour the coin through, and the machine would turn the loose tokens back into sellable rolls.  Y'dig?

* apparently only 1% of the gambling population were actually happy.  The rest were MISERABLE

* smoking was allowed then throughout the upper floor of the casino.  I think I sucked down more cigarettes, second-hand style, then I care to even think about.

* in the "high rollers section," karen once made the mistake of paying out the equivalent of one extra slot machine token to a customer.  This would normally be no big deal, except it was a THOUSAND DOLLAR TOKEN.  Yes, they had a few thousand dollar slot machines.  How pathetic is that?!?  
 If I had a few extra thou, I'd be in Mexico, not throwing it away in a slot machine.  That little mistake earned karen a couple of unpaid days off work.

* there was a rumour floating around, that certain "patrons" who played the slot machines ALL DAY, AND ALL NIGHT, and who feared that as soon as they left their machine, it would give up its jackpot to the next customer, wore diapers.  Interesting thought.

* patrons who roamed around the casino looking for missed tokens in the bottom of the slot machine trays were known as "fleas"

* I once had an argument with an American lady, trying to scrounge all the loose change she had to buy tokens, that a Canadian penny was NOT a Canadian dime.   She insisted it was a dime.  Nevermind that I freaking live in Canada.  Nevermind as well, that aside from our $1 and $2 coins, our change is EXACTLY THE SAME on both sides of the was a very deflating moment. 

* some of the regular patrons were the most horrid of all.  There was the infamous "man with no hands," who would shuffle up in his cowboy boots to the counter, and shove his wallet forward with his, er, stumps.  The cashier at the counter was then obliged to peel the always greasy and dank feeling bill from his wallet for his $5 worth of quarter tokens.  NOBODY liked getting him at their window. He smelled terrible and was always a dick.  The story floating around was that he went to the window of a particularly nice, demure cashier, and dumped some change on her counter.  Among the coins was an unopened condom, which she shoved back at him with disgust.  This may sound very insensitive in the retelling, but whatever...this guy was RANK. 

* St. Patrick's Day was one of THE busiest days of the year.  The place would be crammed with gaudy people, all decked out in green, homemade buttons proclaiming their Irish-ness, ridiculous hats and other baubles.  Our uniform shirts were green back then, so I got to hear "I see ya got YOUR green on, hyuk, hyuk" ALL * DAY * LONG.  Mostly, they were happy on this day.  Go figure.

*Christmas day was another super busy day, starting somewhere around the time that everybody must have said; "well, we opened all them presents, now what should we do???"  However, on Christmas day, they were MISERABLE, and extremely rude (or even ruder, I should say).  Standing there at my window,  missing my first Christmas ever, while the customers verbally abused us, and while my own family was at home enjoying that special spirit, was where a great chunk of my Christmas spirit was killed off, never to return. 

*A mild mannered, likeable fellow cashier once said to me about the patrons;

"karen, I just hate them all--even the nice ones."  That has always stuck with me. 

*I used to be able to count clips of money SO FAST, the customers who watched used to say; "she's like a MACHINE!"  Awesome!

* my knees are now fairly wrecked, thanks to all that bending down to change the bags on the jet sort machine as they'd fill. 

* there was NO sitting on that job.  8 hours of standing, yo. 

* I still have this recurring nightmare, that I've fallen on hard times and am forced to go back to my old job at the casino.  Shudder! 

Sucko Job #5 - Data EntryI had just moved to Suburban Hell, and thought I was happy to find a job.  It was data entry for a company that imputted school library information into the computers.  I was responsible for inputting book bar codes and ISBN numbers into the computer.  All day.  Every day. 

Highlights of THIS job:

*are there any???

* it was interesting to watch my fellow coworkers fight sleep for a while, and then nod off for a bit right there at their computers

* I managed to impart some of my bad attitude onto some of the others around me, and they too became malcontents!  Hooray!

* I spent a lot of time drawing comic strips about my suffering

Sucko Job # 6 - What the hell was I, anyway?  Advertising Associate???So I got another job at a company who placed help wanted ads for other companies in our local newspapers.  My job was to cut help wanted ads out of all the different papers, count how many lines were in each ad, and calculate how much they probably spent.  Then, I'd tape them onto these flyers we had that said: "IF YOU'D PLACED YOUR AD WITH US, YOU WOULD HAVE SAVED $X.XX"  Is this really even a real job???  I guess I could call this job:  "Profferer of JUNK MAIL".


* The 'bosses' were a husband and wife team who had started the company.  They were morons--especially the wife, who was so daffy, it's a wonder she accomplished anything at all.

* I was working there that horrible, unforgettable 9/11.  The radio station we listened to in the office interrupted their broadcast to tell the shocking, still unfolding events.  I remember how my stomach felt like it nearly dropped out, and then Wife Boss, kind of clucked her tongue, and went back to what she was doing.  I felt appalled, truly appalled that while the horror in New York was going on, her attitude was basically "oh well, I'd better keep researching for this big ad I'm placing," when really the work day should have ended right there, if for no other reason than COMPASSION.

* I eventually was laid off thanks to dwindling sales about three months before my wedding.  Very stressful.  

Tolerable Job #7 - Administrative Assistant, Cocoa Factory
Okay, so it was an admin job. I had to answer the phone, send out and receive faxes, file stuff, blah, blah, blah, and input orders for cocoa powder.  It was decent enough.  I worked in an office with two other women in our devision, and one nice enough but LOUD AND CLUELESS older man who worked in the "specialty ingredients" (ie;, useful as well as nasty food additives and preservatives) division.  We were just a small speck in a huge food-related corporation.  I got along great with the women I worked with, who were very understanding and very relaxed.


*I'm pretty sure the Fed-ex guy hotboxed himself in his delivery truck all day with his cigarettes, and wore the same shirt all week.  That guy REEEEEEEKED.

* working in a place that smells like hot chocolate powder is NOT BAD AT ALL

* one time a customer balked at the quality of a block of chocolate they'd received.  There was nothing wrong with the chocolate, but they were playing some sort of buyer/seller game.  So, the block came back to our office.  My boss, however, didn't want it, so I, karen, walked out of there with a TEN POUND BLOCK OF CHOCOLATE.  The Man and I still look back fondly on this as one of the greatest times of our lives.  What does ten pounds of chocolate look like, you may ask?  Well, it's the size of a large cookie sheet, and about an inch and a half thick.  HELLZ YAH.  We left that thing on the counter, and every time we walked by we'd chisel off a little chunk to munch on.  Damn, that was good times.

* My Mother was so pleased; "you must not mind THIS job," she said; "you don't complain NEARLY as much about it as your other jobs."  Yay me.

* I eventually had to resign because I'd had little baby Jack.  When he was 1 year old, I returned for about 12 hours a week, but little Jack was a HANDFUL, and while she never admitted it, I'm fairly certain he burnt out my mother-in-law, who was his babysitter.  Sometime not long after he walked right off the five foot high slide platform at the park...yeah, that was around when the babysitting gig started going downhill for her I think. 

And that, my friends, is the last time I wore nice clothes during any times other than special occasions, for now I am STAY AT HOME MOM, and the burnout is LEGENDARY.  Yes, we all love our children, but this is the hardest job.  Well, don't take my word for it.  All y'all other stay at home moms, tell me what YOU think.  

Thus we end our look back over my handful of yucky sucky jobs.  So like I said, when the time comes that I must immerse myself into the work world again, what the HECK am I going to do?!?  ALL JOBS SUCK!!! 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Tired Gourmet #3 - Triumphant Wednesday Roasted Beef and Veg

 Wednesday.  THE most stinky, poopy, blah day of the week.  It's too long since the last weekend, and too far until the next one.  It's grey, and chilly, and you're stuck inside all day doing housework anyway.  Why wait till Sunday to make that super yummy dinner???  What if it's gorgeous outside?  You've just picked up mate-less socks and dirty underwear all week.  You got the broom out three times to sweep a pile of toys out from under the couch.  You vacuumed, laundered, groceried, cut the crusts off, and ran around like a chicken with its head cut off all week.  So why on earth are you going to spend all day Sunday in the kitchen?!?  Well...if you're not a stay-at-home parent, you're going to have to make SUNDAY DINNER on Sunday.  But otherwise, why not wipe that frown off your face with a kick-A$$ dinner smack dab in the middle of the week?  Why not make a delicious ROAST BEEF accompanied by some lovely ROASTED VEG?  Forget it, you say?  It sounds like too much work?  Don't be silly.  You're forgetting that this is the Tired Gourmet here.  Grab your meat, boys and girls (er...) and let's get BIZAY!

Triumphant Wednesday Roasted Beef and Vegetables
1) A good sized oven roast, such as "Boneless Outside Round Oven Roast" that will feed 4 people.  I bought one that was 1.266 kg (that's just shy of 3 lbs, y'all).  It cost me $5 (watch for the sales, YO).  BOO YAH
2) splash of balsamic or red wine vinegar

3) 1 onion, chopped
4) 1 clove garlic
5) 1 packet beef bouillon (like OXO)
6) 3 large sweet potatoes

7) 3 decent sized white potatoes
8) 1 nice...bulb? head?  thingy of fennel (turn it upside down and see that it's not all dark and rotty on the bottom, and that the stalks on top are nice and fresh)
9) 2 tbsp olive oil (plus oil for browning meat)
10) one huge, or two large carrots
11) 1 tbsp butter
12) 1/2 tsp Old Bay seasoning (if you can't find it, just use salt)
13) loads of black pepper

prep time:  30 minutes, approximately to prepare meat for oven, and chop veg. 


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  We are going to brown this cut of beef you have.  First though, inspect it for thick slabs of white fat around the outside.  Slice most of it off, but leave some so's you have some flavour.  In a large pan, or "dutch oven," glug in just enough olive oil to be swirled over the bottom of the pan.  Turn heat on to medium high.  Olive oil has a lower "smoke point," so if you prefer to use canola oil, that's fine.  I do all my cooking with olive oil.  When the pot is very hot, carefully lay your meat down and let brown.  When you can wiggle the meat around the pot a bit, and it no longer sticks, you can turn over to the next side to brown.  Continue turning, till all sides are a nice, dark brown. 

When meat is browned on all sides, turn off heat, and carefully lift meat and let rest on a plate off to the side.  Stand back a bit and splash some vinegar into your still-hot pot.  A LOT of steam and smoke will rise into your kitchen now.  Hoo boy!  This is the exciting part!  And yes, the vinegar and the smoking oils will smell yucko together.  Don't worry, you won't be coughing vinegar fumes forever.  I would recommend you have someone standing by to fan your smoke detector though.  Har har.  Okay, so you've splashed in the vinegar, now pour in just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan.  With a wooden spoon, or metal spatula (if it's a metal pot), scrape up all those lovely dark, nearly-burnt looking bits from the bottom of the pan.  Make sure you try to get all of it. 

Chop your onion and place on the bottom of a casserole dish large enough to hold your meat (that doesn't sound right, somehow).  Place meat on top of onions.  Pour pan jus over meat and onions.  Sprinkle meat with beef bouillon powder.  Toss that garlic clove in.  Pour in enough water so that liquid level comes half way up the meat.  Put the lid on completely.  If your dish has no lid, cover completely with tin foil.  Put on the middle rack of your oven, and set the timer for 20 minutes.  When 20 minutes is up, turn oven temp down to 325 degrees, and turn lid sideways to allow steam to vent out.  After all, this is not STEAMED BEEF. 

Now, after you have finished browning your beef, or when your beef is in the oven, you can chop the rest of your vegetables.  Or, you can do it later, just remember you are allowing 5 hours for the beef to cook, and 3 hours for the veg to roast.  The longer you roast the veg, the yummier it will be, and what the heck--you have the oven on anyway. 

Chop sweet and white potatoes into chunks, leaving the skin on.  The skin is GOOD FOR YOU, and it will give the sweet potatoes a surprisingly tasty crispness.  Chop your carrot into thick circles.  Now for the fennel.  Fennel is a delicious vegetable with a slight licorice taste.  This licorice taste mostly disappears during the roasting process, leaving behind a crisp, tasty veggy.  So, stop looking so nervous!  First, cut the stalks off the top, and discard, or use in soup stalk if you like.  Cut the fennel in half and you will see the woody triangular core.  Cut that core out and discard.  Cut your fennel into chunks and whatever size pieces you want to eat.  Put all of your vegetables into a large baking dish (10 x 12 I believe), cover with 2 tbsp olive oil, and 1 tbsp butter.  Sprinkle with Old Bay Seasoning or salt if you prefer and a LOT of black pepper.  Toss until all vegetables are coated with oil and spice.  Cover with foil (dull side out), and set aside until you're ready to roast them. 

3 hours before you want to eat, slide veg in beside your roast.  Comfy, cozy.  Let cook at 325 degrees for one hour covered.  Remove foil after an hour, turn vegetables carefully , and then forget about them until you're ready to eat.

1/2 way through cooking time, carefully turn your meat over in the pan.  Make sure liquid level is always half way up the meat.  You just need to lif the lid periodicallyto check, that's all.

My beef went in the oven at 12:30 in the afternoon, and was ready at 5:00.  Since I wanted to eat around 5:30, all I had left to do was make gravy.  So, after four hours or so, you can begin poking your meat.  Yeah, that's right, you actually give it a poke with your finger.  If it feels tough, it is tough. If it starts to feel soft and spongey, you're getting there.  By the 4 1/2 hour mark, that thing was yummy and tender.  Take meat out of pan, and put on a clean plate.  Cover with tin foil and let rest until you're nearly ready to eat.
   Using a strainer, pour remaining contents of pot through said strainer, into a large bowl.  Let cool for a moment.  Discard squashy onions and garlic.  Now, make that gravy!  Print for your own reference, and follow Kraft Canada's tips on how to make perfect gravy HERE.  It did NOT fail me.  I was thrilled. 

So, now your meat is ready.  Your gravy is simmering away, and your veg is roasted to perfection.  And you thought you didn't like sweet potatoes?  Silly you--you forgot that EVERYTHING is good with gravy.  Slice your roast, and serve up  some nice veg on the side.  Hey, you can even make something green to stick on the plate as well.  Ladle on some gravy, and enjoy the best meal you've ever made on a Wednesday.  Cheers! 

Serves:  3 hungry adults, and 3 slightly fussy children, or 4 adults.  You'll have meat left over for a sandwich or two, so if you want to serve more adults, just chop up another couple of potatoes. 

here's everything you need, including your portable phone.  Always keep THAT handy, because house work is really boring. 

your lovely "dutch oven" (yes, yes, it's not 'cast iron.'  Whatever)

swirl, swirl that oil

slap that meat in the smoking hot pot! 

oo, look how nice and brown it's getting!

meat's out, heat's off, vinegar's in!  KOFF KOFF KOFF KOFF...hack, pant... it will help tenderize your meat as it cooks...gasp gasp...smells gross...

no, it's not burnt, silly.  It's BROWNED.  GORGEOUSLY BROWNED.

a lovely bed of onions...aaaah...bed....

place meat *here* 

good thing you scraped up all those brown bits.  Your gravy's gonna ROCK

Ah garlic, my friend...

sprinkle, sprinkle

400 degrees, yo

don't be daunted.  It's only fennel. 

here's your nice, sunshiney coloured veg

mix it all together

your whole dinner is doing it's thing in the oven.  Looks like you've got some free time smack dab in the middle of the should you spend it???

Your meat is cooked to perfection.  TENT IT and let it snooze.

you printed out that easy gravy recipe, right? whisk, whisk...

ooo!  aaaaah! 

You, my friend, are a freaking genius.  You could have put something green on there though, but you'll be getting loads of beta carotene. 


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Idiots! Idiots are EVERYWHERE

At the risk of sounding like an arrogant tw*t, I am compelled to say that I am astounded by the dumbassery that surrounds me.  Perhaps I'll never live to be 100, because it's the little things that completely make me MENTAL.  My dad just popped in to give me a letter that came to his house telling me I HAVE to fill out a questionnaire, because I am a prospective jury duty candidate

So, what's the big deal, you ask?  They addressed it to karen somethingorother at my PARENTS' ADDRESS.  I haven't lived there for 10 years.  Okay, that part's bad enough, but here's the real kick in the pants:

The last week before I moved from Suburban Hell, I received a letter in the mail:  SUMMONS TO JUROR.  I was nearly out of my mind with the stress of packing, and taking care of the kids on my own, because The Man was at a company-wide work conference at DISNEYWORLD*.  I was completely wiped out, trying frantically to organise the last of our stuff, as The Man wouldn't be returning until the NIGHT BEFORE WE MOVED.  Then, this idiotic summons arrived.  I nearly cried.  No wait, this is me we're talking about--I did cry.  So, I had to write this letter explaining why I was ineligible, with proof attached, etc.  The proof I sent was my freaking BILL OF SALE COMPLETE WITH ADDRESS for my new house.  Fine, fine, I was excused from jury duty. 

And now THIS NEW LETTER, SENT TO MY OLD ADDRESS--do we NOT live in the age of computers?!?!?  Do I not pay taxes???  Remember when I moved, and I had to fill out all those change of address forms for my various ID related cards?  Health Card?  Driver's License?  Etc, etc. 

This kind of stuff drives me completely bananas.  As The Man calmly works away on his laptop, I'm stomping around the house, nearly apoplectic with rage, growling:


* yeah, how do you like the idea that while I was vacuuming cobwebs from the basement ceiling, and wrapping, oh, everything in bubble wrap, The Man emailed me from Disneyworld one day to tell me that while they did work most of the time, one day was really "cool" because they had reserved one ride JUST for employees where he worked.  Yeah.  He soon realised that I wasn't receptive to any Disney anecdotes. 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Do All Jobs SUCK??? Part ONE

My friends, clearly I am being a little melodramatic.  Surely all jobs do not suck.  I mean, maybe being one of the princesses at Disneyworld is okay.  You get to walk around out in the fresh air a lot, and you wear a pretty dress.  That sounds okay, especially right now, as I am wearing jeans that have completely worn out where my chubby upper thighs have rubbed the fabric clean away, with a waste band that is still damp with the rye and coke I'd been enjoying, which suddenly my Ella launched all over me during a particularly frenetic session of JACK AND ELLA THUNDERDOME earlier this evening.  

My unreasonable hair is reminding me a little of Glenn Close from Fatal Attraction, and since all the clean laundry is STILL down the basement, I'm wearing a pair of gitch so large, I could easily sail a small boat.  So, the thought of me mincing around in a sparkly dress with no booze on it (or maybe a little, who knows), and an all-hairs-in-place wig on, while little girls all around me light up with joy--well, that sounds pretty good. 

Also, I want to say "gourmet chocolate taster" would be a dream job, but I think it would fill me with stress.  Who could ever stop at one? 

Oo!  I wouldn't mind being a proof-reader, or a writer for a magazine.  That would be pretty dope.  I lost the contest to become a prominent parents' magazine's newest blogger recently.  Oh the sadness!  Why didn't they choose me?  I tell it LIKE IT IZ.  Oh wait, perhaps that is the reason.  Yes, yes, it's not all smiles undt sunshine here in angst land.  

Perhaps if, after I'd submitted my link to my blog, I had immediately penned an article titled "THE JOYS OF BREASTFEEDING," and then after that, "KIDS--THEY MAKE ME CRAZY, BUT YA GOTTA LOVE EM'!" or, "MY SON MISSED THE TOILET BOWL AGAIN AND NOW MY SOCK'S ALL WET," then maybe, just maybe I coulda been a contender.  

Bah. Potty training and play groups.  I suppose that's what they think it all ads up to.  When we all know the truth, don't we, people.  Yes, sometimes after the fifth day in a row of the little people getting up at SIX, when it's still dark outside, and we didn't sleep so well the night before because we catch ALL THEIR COLDS NOW, well, sometimes it's just not possible to blog about all the FREAKING COOKIE HOUSES WE CAN BUILD TOGETHER.  

Oh my, do I sound a tad bitter?  

chuckle, chuckle...

So, I think any job to do with writing would be okay.  And really--those ladies who work at the "early years" centres?  That's a pretty sweet gig.  You get to gab all day, and every now and then, pick up some toys. I'll bet they don't hire you unless you have some early childhood education degree, which is funny because I have a LOT of experience picking up toys.  Hm...must rethink the zen-ness of this job perhaps. 

And so, the greater majority of jobs suck.  I am afraid, people.  I am very afraid.  When my kids reach an age whereby I can "go out into the real world" and get a job again, what the hell am I going to do?!?  I have a terrible attitude!  I'm a malcontent!  I get super bored super easy!  And, I mean NO offense to the cashiers out there, but I can't do that again!  Serving the public is HORRIBLE.  I think I would swallow an entire bottle of (insert NSAID of choice) just so I DON'T have to serve the public.  More hyperbole.  Whatevs.  I'm wicked tired.

Am I being a little dramatic?  Am I?!?  

Well, let's take a small trip down memory lane then, and remember all the jobs I've had.

Sucko Job #1:  Raft Rental Cashier ~ Wave Pool

I live in a tourist town.  Most jobs available to teenagers are tourism-related.  There used to be a waterpark in town, complete with waterslides and a wave pool.  It was pretty fun..until I WORKED THERE.  

When I was 17, my parents basically told me it was time for me to get a summer job.  So, young self-esteem devoid karen found out through her piano teacher, that a lady he knew was looking for kids that summer for the water park.  My stomach flopped, but I applied for a job.  

I was hired to rent "rafts," or air mattresses, to people to be used for the wave pool.  I had to sit on a stool, under a patio table umbrella, at my little post, INSIDE A FENCED-IN CAGE, and manage the stupid rafts.  I had to inflate them, with the little electric pump.  I also had to take in the deposit for the rafts.  Sounds easy enough, right?  Okay, well how about this:  in order to rent a raft, the customer had to pay $5.  If the raft was returned in the shape it was sent out, I would then give $2 back.  

Do you KNOW how many people only saw that the raft rental was THREE DOLLARS, and I had to explain a, a trillion times a day that they had to pay 5 bucks up front.  I got very tired, very quickly of explaining this.  So, I made my own handwritten sign: 

"when you rent a raft, you must pay $5 up front.  Upon return of your raft in good condition, you will get $2 back." 

Brilliant.  The most satisfying thing was watching the numbnuts customers read that sign, and then happily offer up their $5.  But my boss didn't like it.  She felt it would be "better" if I just explained it myself.  Sigh.  So, every morning I showed up for my shift, and began my examination of all the hated rafts.  Some of them were in sh*tty condition, but the boss was cheap, and didn't actually throw them away.  They would be the rafts that rented last.  I wasn't allowed to pump them up too firm, because in the sun, they would expand and BECOME firm enough.  

Imagine, just imagine how many times someone grabbed their raft, squeezed it and inevitably said; "can ya pump it up a little more?!?"  No, I explained, I wasn't allowed, becaue if I pump them up too firm, they'll burst.  Blah, blah, blah, tongue falling out, yackity yak.  Plus, most of the rafts in time developed slow leaks, so I had to pump MOST of them every morning.  My fingers soon became raw after fighting with the metal, threaded lids.  

Whenever it rained, it's not like anyone was there after hours to put my stool inside either.  So, after a good rain, that thing would be like one big wet sponge.  I could either sit down and get all wet, or stand the whole day.  I had to wear really thick, blue sweat-pants material shorts, a yellow shirt and a baseball cap.  Very, very not-cool in the '90's.

One guy took his raft, tossed it into the wave pool and JUMPED on it.  The thing burst, of course.  He brought the deflated raft skin back to me and was totally miffed when we wouldn't give him his $2 back. 

    Still, there were some highlights at that job:  like the time the French strippers came in, creating a stir at the family park, with their super high healed shoes, and their thong bathing suits.  Big Ted, the retired cop who was now park security, could hardly toss them out fast enough.  Ah, and I can't forget the time a kid was SCREAMING because a bug had flown into his ear, and his mother sucked it out. 

Sometimes I got to work in the gift shop though, where I'm ashamed to admit I swiped, and chowed down a ton of these chocolate/caramel squares. 

Sucko Job #2 - Charwoman

Okay, so, for the four years I went to university, I paid my way through school by cleaning hotel rooms during the summer.  This was extremely hard work, and I would like to say that those ladies deserve a freaking tip people.  Surely you can leave a couple of bucks on the pillow and a thank you note, when you check out of your hotel, provided your room was nice and clean?  

I used to have 14 rooms a day MINIMUM, and that was only when the other dirt bag maids weren't calling in sick just for the hell of it, because it was SUMMER and they wanted to go to the beach.  Seriously.  When those girls called in sick, we all got extra rooms dumped on our list.  And guess what--everybody had to stay until until EVERYBODY WAS DONE.  So, that means that even though you may have hustled ASS all day, if Sally Slowpoke wasn't done, you still had to go help her. Grumble, grumble.  What a job. 

Let me paint a little portrait for you:  

a young, soft porkchop karen, with delicate sensibilities showed up for her first day of work  at the hotel.  A hardened maid came up to greet her at the lobby, then proceeded to lead her down, down, down past the nice rooms, down past everywhere, and down to the BASEMENT where the lunch room and lockers were.  

There was no mistaking it for anything but a basement, because there were pipes and such snaking across the ceiling.  karen was given a grey, prison-issue smock to wear, so karen threw this on over her shorts and t-shirt.  karen would be training with Marg (rhyms with 'argh') that day, and Marg had very little empathy, patience, or even general people skills.  

Marg was a petite beast of a maid, and she whipped through there at a pace that poor butterlegs karen could barely keep up with.  After whizzing through who knows how many rooms, they got to have a break.  Back down to the basement...and it was the good old days, whereby smokers could still smoke wherever they wanted to.  

So, karen sat in a room filled with hardened, slightly miserable, overworked maids, who smoked, and smoked and smoked, and complained, and swore, and used grammar that karen knew was simply incorrect.  And then, it was back to work.  

karen busted her nuts, if you will, for several more hours, had a lunch break somewhere along the way, and then was spat back out of the hotel at quitting time, completely exhausted, and shell-shocked from the rough and tumble women she'd encountered.  

karen's brother was there to pick her up, and she happily told him; "wow, that sucked!  Good thing I'm not going back tomorrow!"  karen's brother, incredulous, said; "but you have to!  You have no choice!  You need the money to pay for school."  Tender, soft hearted karen, now filled with despair, burst into tears.

And so I went back to work.  I stuck it out.  I even had my own floor eventually, and my own cart.  Here are some highlights from that job:

* one time a kid called me "the janitor," and for some reason, that was more than I could bear

* after a team of baseball players checked out, my entire floor was DISASTROUS.  I particularly enjoyed finding that the garbage can had been used as a "loogie" bin the entire night in one room, which was DISGUSTING, but I suppose I should count myself lucky, since other ball players on another maid's floor had used a garbage bin as a barf bucket.  And guess who had to CLEAN that people?  It wasn't like we could just go get a new garbage bin

*sometimes Stan, the BIGGER boss, and total A-hole, would go around the bathrooms and spray straight bleach on the tiles to get rid of the mildew, and we'd have to scrub it.  MMmmm....nothing like sucking bleach fumes all day.  I heard that chainsmoking jerk tried the nicotene patch at one point, but would peel it off to have a smoke, then stick it back on again.

* none of the maids liked cleaning "the bottom Sixes."  This was a very small floor of rooms, (in the 600 series of numbers) way on the other end of the hotel, in the basement.  
These rooms would usually be rented last, and the rumour was that the evil hotel people would rent them to tourists who didn't speak very good English.  Terrible, but I think I believe it.  

These rooms ALWAYS smelled like mildew, and were always damp.  There was no cart down there, to carry cleaning supplies, so whichever maid won the "bottom sixes" lottery had to carry a plastic basket of supplies instead, and had to keep running back to the linen closet to get sheets and towels.  Total pain.  

Also, there were bugs down there.  Weird bugs.  There was this thing that was kind of like a huge, walking mosquito with no wings.  I threw the telephone book at it, and the book bounced off, the thing uncrumpled itself and kept on walking, until I finally crushed it for good.  Shudder.  But the best part was the linen closet, which had a rodent trap in it.  A GIANT rodent trap in it.  Too big for a mouse, ie., and tied to the wall with a rope.  Yeah.

* Once, a nice single man with some tour group stood and yapped my ear off for a bit before he checked out.  Then he left and said his room was available to be cleaned.  So, in I went and found that he had picked his nose and wiped everything he got out of his shnonk on the counter.  This was particularly confounding since he'd just stood and chit-chatted happily for like five minutes with me. 

* There was another block of rooms that were always rented after all the others--the "bottom 9's" (900 series rooms).  These too, were the lowest rooms, but they had patio doors that opened to ground level.  One time my job for the whole day was to be in the bottom nine's scrubbing mildew off the walls, and vacuuming bugs (none of the rooms had been rented out).  Those roly-poly potato bugs would just march right under the doors into the rooms. 

* never put your ice directly in the ice bucket.  Just take my word for it. 

* we loved it when tours of old people would come through.  70% of them never bathed during their stay, so, no tubs to scrub.  Hooray! 

*Speaking of old people, there was at our hotel, briefly, a kookoo maid who would just fold those sheets and blankies back up and tuck them back in, if she'd had a tour of old people stay in her rooms. Sometimes those teeny elderly tourists hardly even wrinkled the sheets, so she figured they weren't dirty.  Yeah. 

* I don't know about other hotels, but those blankets and comforters on the bed only get washed once or twice a year for spring cleaning, or if there's an obvious stain on them.  The laundry people, who worked in constant thousand degree conditions, would get P*SSED OFF if we maids requested more than one clean bedspread per day.  But then, the laundry people hated the maids, and the maids hated the laundry people.  It was one of those weird, unspoken rivalry things.  I had to go to the laundry one day to pick up a king-sized bedspread.  Those women were URGLY.

*We would frequently be out of supplies, and because the maids were the ultimate pee-ons in the great hierarchy of hotel staff, new supplies wouldn't necessarily show up too quickly.  So, we all soon learned that we could clean the tubs with those little complimentary bottles of shampoo.  

*We ALL hated cleaning the suites that had jacuzzi tubs in them.  Those things were a total pain.

*eavesdropping on lunchroom conversations could be a total treat at times.  Once a maid tried to emphasize just how tired she was at the end of each shift:  "At the end of the day," she said, "I'm comatoast."

- once a few maids were discussing a woman they knew whose man had cheated on her.  "If that were my husband," one of them said; "I'da CAUTERIZED him."  The other maids all nodded in agreement.  "Yeah--cauterized him."

*that hotel no longer exists. 

Stay tuned for PART TWO, where I will rant about more sucky jobs! 

Friday, October 22, 2010

STUPID Product

I had seen a commercial recently for a new product called "Kleenex Hand Towels."  The basic idea, the evil Kleenex company is trying to feed into our brains, is that we dry our hands over and over again with the same towel, and OH MY LORD that same towel must be so filthy, so saturated with germs, so reprehensibly pestilence-ridden, that it must be a ticking time bomb of doom HANGING RIGHT THERE IN OUR BATHROOM!!!!  Funny...I don't remember anybody dying after drying their hands on a bathroom towel.  So, what they propose is that you get that thing OUTTA THERE, and use their nice, DISPOSABLE hand towels.  You know?  So you can fill the Earth up with more garbage?  Because there aren't enough disposable products?  Because recylcing, apparently, is stupid?  To learn all about the ridiculousness that is the Kleenex Hand Towel, complete with trumped up justifications for using it, please click HERE

Hey everyone, remember a time before all this paranoia of germs came around?  Remember when we washed our hands with a bar of soap, and dried them on a fluffy towel?  And then tragedy:  we started DROPPING LIKE FLIES.  Those towels were more deadly than driving with your eyes closed. 

Give me a break. 

Okay, can we all do something?  Please don't ever buy those stupid hand towels?  Please?  And, if you know anybody who has bought them, can you let them know just how ridiculous they are? 

There, that's better.  Now, enjoy this little parody of the hand towel commercial I found on youtube. 


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Calgon, Take Me Away!

Calgon, take me away! 
Ha ha ha...that has to be one of the most overused "I can't take it anymore" catch phrases.  I was thinking about it today when I had to get up this morning, and I could hardly force my thousand pound self out of bed.  Well, I imagined I felt that heavy anyway, because it's Thursday and me so cranky, and the tv room is disastrous, and there are, once again, piles of clothes that need to be put away, and the dishes have been waiting for me since lunch time, and if I have to make just ONE MORE PEANUT BUTTER AND JAM SANDWICH...but I HAVE to make it, because Jack hates the way THE MAN makes it, because The Man refuses to get ON BOARD and cut the crusts off with the scissors, but instead, sawed them off with a knife last time, which gave the bread a very "bitty" rough-hewn edge, and that is completely unacceptable in Jack's world, and I'm oh so sleepy.  Well, I ain't making dinner.  That's for sure. 
And you know what else I've been thinking about...nay, can't stop thinking about?  The Man told me that he should be getting a raise soon.  Hey, that's great, I said.  He does a really good job, and he's very dilligent. Yeah.  And he gets to sit down all day.  Mm hmm.  And I don't.  Yup.  And I have piles and piles and piles of work to do.  And he "punches the clock" by 5 every day, and I don't punch the clock till 9. 

WHERE IS MY FREAKING RAISE?!?  Lousy job with no real pay cheque. 

Time to LOSE OURSELVES IN LUXURY, girls and boys.  When is the magic bath tub going to show up at my door?  Maybe around the same time the magic cocktail cart makes an appearance.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Yesterday morning, I went for a walk after taking my boy to school in the morning.  I had my ipod plugged into my head, which makes exercise so much more enjoyable.  A song came up in the shuffle by a Chilean folk band I discovered a few years ago by chance on TV:  Illapu.  The song is called "Vuelvo Para Vivir," which means "I return to live."  During the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, the band members were exiled for 7 years from their country for their liberal viewpoints.  This song is about their return to Chile, after being away so long from the land they love.  They talk about their return to the ocean, the desert, the familiar buildings--their HOME.  They lived in France for a time, and then in Mexico, but clearly it never felt like HOME.  It made me think about how happy I am to be home now, so if you were driving past around 9:30 that morning, I was the silly fool who was crying behind her sunglasses.

Home.  It's such an interesting word.  It is so much more than a building.  It is so much more than any old house.  It encompasses a wider scope than can be physically measured.  It has an ineffable, intangeable quality that we can find only in our memories, and in our hearts. 

I was lucky.  As a kid, I grew up in a great family, and our two story house was our home.  Our warm, yellow kitchen, our tv room in colours of brown, and rusty 1970's orange.  Our "good living room," with the red, green and gold shag carpet, and the gold velvet furniture.  My room that I shared with my sister.  My brother's room, my parents' room.  Our dog, cat, geese, ducks, rabbits, hamster, guppies and budgies (not ALL at one time, but a lot of them).  That was our home.  Over the years we had flea infestations, large black ants running around from time to time and mice.  And then, the final straw for my Mom:  RATS.  Mom decided either the rats went, or she went.  So, my Dad did what he had to do.  He got a big stick, and locked himself in the basement work shop with my pre-teen brother, who got to hold the paper bag.  With a carpet knife, he carefully cut into the fibreglass insulation on the walls.  HELLO RATS!  I won't go into more details, for the faint of heart, but let's just say my mild mannered Dad now always just smiles at that story, shrugs and says that he had to do what he had to do. 

Home was our place where we had noisy Sunday dinners, noisy birthday parties, noisy get-togethers.  Even when my brother, sister, and I moved out, that was our central location, where we all came to sit in the kitchen while our Mom worked endlessly. 

It was a good place to be, and perhaps this is why I didn't move out until I was 28.  The Man and I had been dating for 8 years.  We'd met at university.  I lived in the smaller city, and he lived in suburban hell, but stayed in one of those small rooms rented out for students in a grubby house. When we were all finished school, and it was more than time for me to be on my own, I decided to make the big leap and move to suburban hell to be with him.  I don't know how I had the courage to do it in a way.  I must have been bolstered by youth, determination and love.  That last Christmas season in my town, as I drove the quiet winter streets one night, I remember feeling very sad.  These wouldn't be "my" streets any longer.  This wouldn't be "my" city any longer.  But I was determined, and so I went.  And when I was gone, my Mother cried.

We had bought a house in the big(ger) city--a little townhome that was fully attached to one neighbour, and attached to the other by our garage.  It was a small house--1100 square feet, with a postage stamp of a back yard.  The back yard looked over EVERYONE else's back yard in the neighbourhood.  They were all sectioned off by this utilitarian wooden fence that attracted an inordinate number of wasps every summer.  The tree-less yards were sunbaked in summer; the good grass would die off, and the weeds would flourish.  The small, square design of the yards trapped the heat like crazy.  I took a temperature reading once, and on a hot summer day, the back yard was actually 5 degrees hotter than the front yard.  The soil was terrible; rock hard clay, filled with leftover crud from the builders.  I tried building, and subsequently abandoned a flower garden.
The carpet was completely trampled down when we moved in, and since we never replaced it in the 9 years we lived there, it became even uglier.  The kitchen was too small to fit a table in, unless we gave up storage.  As soon as we were able to open our windows in the spring, our sleep was disturbed by a constant line of airplanes cruising overhead.  We lived under the flight path, half an hour's drive from a major airport after all.

The house was small and cramped, but I loved it.  It was our little "shoe box."  I painted the tiny kitchen a bright, warm yellow.  The carpet was beyond hope, so I never cared if anyone I loved spilled anything on it.  The back yard was an oven, but there was this crazy awning I could roll down, and hide from the sun under.  There were no trees, but I was able to grow the most beautiful pots of assorted flowers.  We got an unbelievable breeze through our bedroom window. 

The greatest treasure though, was the front step, which faced to the East.  We had a stone path leading up to our front step, which was situated in just such a way to catch all the warmth and cheer of the morning sun.  Even in the winter, on the coldest, most bitter day, if there was no wind, it would always be 20 degrees C in the sun on my front step.  I could sit there with a sweater on, letting it sink into my bones, even though the snow would be heaped 2 feet high, less then 3 feet to my right.  When we moved, I was very tempted to write a little letter to the new lady of the house, and tell her what a wonderful, secret spot that was.  In the spring, I'd check my little front garden for new buds, and forget-me-nots.  The lavender always bloomed around Canada Day, and the chrysanthemum heralded the end of summer with its riot of pink blooms. 

Before we got married, we had the greatest party.  We filled that cramped house with The Man's family--come all the way from England, and even Australia for our wedding.  We all took turns singing, at the top of our lungs, stomping feet, and dancing until very, very late one Tuesday night.  My neighbour on the fully attached side was not impressed. 

We brought our beautiful son home.  We brought our beautiful daughter home almost precisely 3 years later.  We filled the house with diapers, a play pen, a "jolly jumper," a "mega saucer," building blocks, sippy cups.  The house was no longer tidy for long, or even frequently.  Now it was our family home.  We put up our Christmas trees there.  We had our friends and family there for dinner and various parties. 

The strange thing was, those 9 years were very, very lonely.  I gave up my job to be home full time with my son.  He was not the easiest baby to deal with, though exceedingly beautiful.  We would go for long walks around the marsh near our house, and sometimes not run into a single person during a week day.  We would be at the park around the corner from our home; I pushing Jack on the swing, and not a soul would be around.  Most of the people, especially the yuppies, were not very friendly.  They all had lots of money for clothes, and they were very fit.  Sometimes, even though I'm not what I'd consider "fat," I'd be out for a walk on the path behind our house, and feel like one of the heaviest people in the neighbourhood.  I lived there for 9 years and never learned who 95% of my neighbours were.  So, it was a conundrum:  the city did not feel like home, but I always felt safe and comforted in my house. 

After 9 years, I was ready to give up.  I was ready to resign myself to the fact that I would probably never get the chance to move back "home."  Before I left, I had told myself, and my Mom that I had a "five year plan," whereby I would move back home after five years.  Well, that came and went, and I was still in a city that never felt like home.  A city that was constantly expanding and building so green spaces disappeared in favour of NEW, NEW, NEW. 

And then, some strange turns of events:  first, my husband lost the job he'd had for 13 1/2 years--two days before Jack's birthday.  That was February.  The Man applied to so many jobs, and had various interviews, but nothing was panning out for us.  Okay, I told myself, don't panic.  We have enough money to live on until November.  And then, in May, my Polish Grandma died.  I was crushed.  Strange to think she'd never give me mild hell for calling long distance to thank her for a present or wish her happy birthday again.  Her house sat empty.  And then one day my Dad said; "you should consider buying Grandma's house."  In July The Man finally got hired by a company for whom he could work from home if he wanted to.  Hmm...could I possibly have an opportunity to move back home??? 

On my mother's advice, we came to look at Grandma's house to see if we liked it enough to want to live in it.  It was like a museum--untouched as the last day Grandma had lived in it.  I can remember walking through it, so quiet with the wall to wall pink carpet.  There was a lot of furniture.  There were bouquets of fake flowers EVERYWHERE.  There were curtains EVERYWHERE.  The upstairs--almost creepily vacant.  Then I stepped out into a cool dusk in the long back yard, where it was dark, and quiet.  No airplanes.  No endless hum of cars in the distance.  Just the winds, and leaves.  It felt like home.  My home. 

And so I returned, and while I missed that little house in suburban hell, I was home.  I was back in my city, with my crummy pot-holed streets, and run down buildings, where seemingly EVERYONE besides my own family smoked.  I enrolled my son in MY elementary school; the kindergarten classroom virtually untouched somehow since I had been a shy little girl sitting quietly for circle time.   My sister and brother--10 minutes to the South.  My Mom and Dad, 2 minutes to the North, and me, in my home, where I could look out my front window and see this marvellous street which I hope will be my view until I die. 

Home.  Home is a word that means so much.  I'm so happy to be home.  Those lonely years are done.  I miss a few things about suburban hell though.  I miss the friendly people from India.  In sad moments, I remember peeking through my bedroom window at night, where I could look through the back yard and into the kitchen of my Indian neighbours.  Often the kitchen there would be filled with women, cooking and laughing together.  I longed for that kind of togetherness.  I miss the only woman who became a real friend in the last year and a half I lived there--my Sri Lanken friend, who was beautiful in a very different way from what we're accustomed to, and who had no problem speaking her mind despite her broken English.  We walked together with our toddler girls nearly every morning.   When I told her I was leaving, she hugged me, told me she'd miss me, and she had tears in her eyes.  But I was going home. 

And really, there is no place like home.  If only my Mom were still here.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Creature of Habit

How flexible are YOU?

If someone phoned you up and said, "hey, want to go shopping with me TONIGHT?" how would you feel?  If you agree to go out for dinner and a drink with friends instead of staying home and watching your usual Thursday night TV show, how do you feel?  Does it discombobulate you at all?  Throw you off rhythm?  Make you feel all wound up after?  Do you actually feel stressed out the whole day anticipating this change in schedule? 

Are we all CREATURES OF HABIT?  What does this expression mean?  It means that we have certain rituals and routines we need to follow all the time in order to feel secure in our own setting. 

I need to have my cup of coffee every morning, that I have brewed.  I never want to go out for coffee in the morning, and if I do happen to be out drinking another coffee, somehow it's just not the same.  I don't even really want to go out in the morning.  I don't like to go out for dinner, drinks, or coffee very much in the evening, but if I do go out, I enjoy it once I'm there.  However, all day at home it will hang over my head to the point of feeling restless, and hand-wringingly nervous, and afterward I will feel completely exhausted.  I don't like doctor's appointments disrupting my routine, and if I have more than one medical appointment within the same week, I find I have a difficult time dealing with the schedule upset. 

When I eat Mini Wheats, I have to make sure they're all turned frosting-side up before I eat them. 

No matter how hungry I am in the morning, I can not eat breakfast until I've finished my morning ritual:  wake up, have a handful of raw nuts and raisins, consume my two natural thyroid boosting supplements, a Vitamin D, and an Omega supplement.  If I don't have any almonds, it nags at me.  Then I have to get washed first, put on makeup, and finally do some yoga.  If I have no time to do yoga, I just feel disappointed with the whole ritual.  I would like to sometimes do yoga first, then get washed, but that's out of order.  I would like to get breakfast and coffee out of the way first, sometimes, but I almost can't eat breakfast before 10:30.  I can't eat breakfast until I've started making the coffee.  And I have to have coffee in my snowman mug, or else it's just not right.  I can't consider what I want to do in the afternoon (particularly if it's the weekend) until after I've had my coffee. 

During the day, I have to obsessively perform my three-part ritual on the computer:  check hotmail, then facebook, then my blog.  I do this so much during the day that I get sick of it--especially facebook.  I check it so often there usually isn't an appreciable amount of new updates, so I end up reading that someone's "going out for dinner" a zillion times.  After the kids go to bed, I immediately have to go on the computer and repeat my ritual.  This is also interspersed with reading interesting articles, googling various things, and playing online word games. 

This whole computer ritual thing makes it a little difficult to get other things done.  I am distracted, and find I can't focus on any one task for long.  This means I will fill the sink up with hot soapy water to wash the dishes, then I'll go on the computer.  Then I'll wash a couple of dishes, then I'll get sidetracked by making lunches or snacks.  Then the water will get cool and I'll add more hot water.  Then I'll be back on the computer.  Then after I've blogged something, the water will be cold, and I'll have to dump the whole thing out and start again.  Or, I'll fill a laundry basket up with dirty clothes before breakfast in the morning, but not throw it in to the washing machine until late afternoon. 

Funnily enough, this computer ritual didn't become a real problem until my Mom died.  I didn't realise it, but the ritual was soothing.  The escapism was soothing. 

Here's an article about the importance of routine for children:

"Routines and Schedules for Children

by Rexanne Mancini

Children need and crave routine. Routine helps establish security and peace in a child’s life. A bedtime routine will establish good sleeping patterns. A dinnertime routine establishes the importance of family interaction, homework schedules will help your child get their homework done on time and with little fuss.

Routines are an ideal way to keep your family and children calm, secure and at ease with life’s variables.

Children will thrive with schedules that are easy to understand and accomplish, yet flexible enough to change if circumstances warrant. We do not want to rule our families with an iron fist, adhering to “the schedule” without compromise; however, good routines will keep your family organized and will establish an environment of tranquility for all family members.

Babies especially thrive on routine. They will become secure and happy with strict adherence to their daily feeding and sleeping schedules, which are, ultimately, their most important routines.

Little children need routines and schedules in order to learn how to manage their time and attention. When they know what we expect of them, they learn to comply with the rules without question. This allows children to feel more confident by understanding their roles in the family."

for the rest of the article, please see "Routines and Schedules For Children"

So it makes sense:  we learn from an early age that routines make us feel secure.  The death of my Mom created a great hole in my world of routine, and perhaps that is why other rituals emerged with greater strength.  This could also be why I don't like to leave my house now.  I feel a lot of comfort in doing the same thing day after day, and these activities are completed within these walls.  However, the conundrum with this is that doing the same thing over and over again is tedious, and becomes boring. 

Speaking of routines and habits, if you know a child who is on the Autistm Spectrum, you know that routine is EVERYTHING to them.  If their routines are disrupted, they become extremely anxious, and nearly unable to cope.  This anxiety presents itself as behaviour we consider "bad;" screaming, tantrums, physical aggression.  I learned very early on, without even really realising just why, that my Jack needed a very rigid routine.  If he was going to watch Baby Einstein, I would put it on at the same time every day, and never before breakfast.  So, on the weekends when little toddler Jack wanted to watch a video, and Daddy would try to be nice and say "sure," rather than placate Jack, it would make him rangy and difficult to deal with.  I had to get The Man "on board," and follow the same schedule I followed during the work week, while he was at the office. 

If I ever need to pop into the grocery store to get an item I'm out of, I almost had to have a conference with Jack in the past to do so.  Actually, when he was 3, it was impossible, unless I wanted to listen to him wailing and sobbing, pleading to go home as he sat in his car seat.  Then as he got a little older, I had to negotiate with him for ages.  Now that he's six, he's very reasonable, and while he doesn't love that we have to go to the store, he sighs, is resigned, and says; "oh, alright."  Still, I have to say that I almost never try to coerce him to come to the store with me, and just wait till someone else is around to stay with him.  Also, he can never deviate from his morning routine.  Sometimes, out of convenience, I've wanted him to brush his teeth and hair before getting dressed, but nothing doing. 

Nursery school was good, because their routine was very rigid. This is a little boring for Ella, but it was very good and reassuring for Jack.  He always knew what was coming.  Jack is always worried about "what's next," since he started grade 1.  During his first week of school, I wrote up a week day schedule for him, which immediately made him feel calmer and more secure. He enjoys reading it out loud often.

So we might say; "wow, it's so difficult to live with Autism," and yet, stop and think about what daily rituals you go through, and what schedules you have to maintain in order to deal with the stresses the adult world provides. 

image reference

Friday, October 15, 2010

Random PMS Ramblings

* First and foremost, a scenario: 

You are a miner.  You have been trapped deep beneath the surface of the Earth for over 2 months.  Up on the surface, all the best scientific minds have been working out a way to get you, and your fellow miners out of there.  A hole has been carefully drilled.  Finally the day arrives when they reach your sealed-off chamber!  Jubilation!  Not much longer now, and you will be free!  And then the day comes and they lower down the tube-like device to transport you to the top.  OH WAIT, IT'S ONLY AS WIDE AS YOUR FREAKING SHOULDERS.  OH, AND YOU HAVE TO RIDE IN THAT THING, THROUGH A 'TUNNEL' THAT IS NOT MUCH WIDER THAN THAT NARROW, NARROW TUBE.  ALSO, YOU HAVE TO BE IN THAT TINY, TINY, SUPER CLAUSTROPHOBIC TUBE FOR PERHAPS 20 MINUTES. 

Seriously, did anybody else see that tube in their little chamber and think; oh my god, THAT is what they have to get into?  THAT?!?  Did anyone else feel so suffocatingly claustrophobic just looking at it that they nearly had to lie down?  I lamented (whined) to my Dad; "if they were digging a hole anyway, couldn't they have made it WIDER?!?"  He replied; "that's a BIG hole..."  Big shmig.  They would have had to sedate me. 

Oh, and here's another thing, thanks to my sucko thyroid, and my low metabolism, I never lose weight.  I haven't gained weight in 3 years (yay me), but I never lose any appreciable amount of weight even though I don't eat any of the crappy stuff I shouldn't be eating (recent large bag of medicinal red licorice aside).  So, what if I had been down there, and when it came time to haul me up, I didn't fit into that tube thing?  Dad said; "you'd have lost weight.  They put them on a special 2000 calorie a day diet."  Oh no I wouldn't.  They'd probably have to butter me just to get me back to the surface. 

! Note:  I am not, in any way, trying to make light of the horrible situation those poor Chilean Miners endured.  But mon dieu, if you're as claustrophic as I, you almost had to put a pillow over your head when it came time to start lifting the guys to the surface in THAT THING. 
* PINK EYE IS A FREAKING JOKE.  Yeah, you heard me.  I got a phone call from the school yesterday to tell me that Jack's right eye was "really red."  This I knew.  Yes, I am a mild douche in this case, but not entirely, and here's why.  Jack has had pink eye since last week.  Last week we got the over-the-counter drops.  I figured it was all part of the last cold he had, and since none of us caught it, nor Jack's sister who licked his face last Thursday whilst waiting at the clinic to treat her TONSILLITIS, I figured it wasn't the highly contagious variety.  So, the drug store drops had been working nicely, until tired, burnt out, hormonally compromised karen kept forgetting to give him all four doses the past two days.  Bingo bango, Jack wakes up on picture day with a nice red eye.  But it's PICTURE DAY, I whined to myself, mentally tallying again all the important days Jack's has missed the past few years thanks to germs.  Off we went to the doctor's last night, where she took one quick look at him, and wrote up a prescription.  And the freaking Rule Of Thumb, is that a child with pink eye should stay home for the first 24 hours after starting the antibiotic.  So let's get this straight, a kid who otherwise feels great, but whose eye is slightly itchy, gets to have a nice day at home surfing youtube and drawing pictures, but the kid who shows up to school with green ropes coming out of his nose is fine?!?  BAH.  Jack must think pink eye is a magical gift. 

* my face gets very fat in those last few days before my red buddy shows up, and my double chin, EVEN BIGGER. 

* Every month at this time:  SAME THING, and still nobody else picks up the toys. 

* I think I really fried my hair the last time I threw a box of chemical colour on it.  The hair to the right side of my forehead is all wispy and kind of broken off.  Hmm...

* how can I coax my family to each only wear one clean outfit per week???

* I'm trying to figure out what the difference between "cynic," and "realist" is....less whining???

* I burnt my forehead with the f***ing straightener while pondering that last point

* if for 1 day I could just liberally pepper my dialogue with the F word, and all the other yummy swears, I think it would be more effective for stress release than yoga!


*Here's a recent convo I had with a dad at the school yard:  "Hey, so-and-so, have your girls been sick since the beginning of school too? "

So-and-so:  "No--I guess we've been pretty lucky, but you probably just cursed me!"

Hyuck hyuck.This small exchange represents one thing I've suspected all along:  A LOT OF PEOPLE'S LIVES ARE THIS MUCH EASIER THAN MINE.

* I have discovered that instead of spending money on a toy, I might as well spend it on a tie.  I bought Jack a little clip-on black long tie from Wal of Evil the other day, and he flipping loves it.  He's worn his white dress shirt and black tie two days in a row.  This kid's greatest aspiration is to have a black suit.  What a crazy kid. 

* even though I feel the power of the B$tch is strong in me, I can't stop it.

* If I do the old trick, whereby I get a mannequin, put it in my clothes, and plunk it just-so under the covers, do you think everyone would be fooled, and then stop asking me for snacks, drinks, and whatever else they want for the next few hours?

* The best word to describe my hair is UNREASONABLE.  I don't know if there's some hormonal shifts going on, but my lid has become the untameable broom.  Maybe it's time to look into getting one of those Raquel Welch wigs, buzzing my horse hair off, and just putting something fresh and cute on every day.   

*it's probably the worst time possible to bake up a batch of chocolate chip cookies, considering how quickly that generous package of red licorice disappeared

* it's probably the best time possible to be invited to my Dad's house for TAKE OUT FISH AND CHIPS BOO YAH

Have a good weekend, y'all. 


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